The book presents the current state of thought on the common path of sustainable diets and biodiversity. The articles contained herein were presented at the International Scientific Symposium “Biodiversity and Sustainable Diets: United Against Hunger” organized jointly by FAO and Bioversity International, held at FAO, in Rome, from 3 to 5 November 2010. The Symposium was part of the
official World Food Day/Week programme, and include done of the many activities in celebration of International Year of Biodiversity, 2010. The Symposium addressed the linkages among agriculture, biodiversity, nutrition, food production, food consumption and the environment.
The Symposium served as a platform for reaching a consensus definition of “sustainable diets” and to further develop this concept with food and nutrition security, and the realization of the Millennium Development Goals, as objectives. In the early 1980s, the notion of “sustainable diets”was proposes, with dietary recommendations whichwould result in healthier environments as well as healthier consumers. But with the over-riding goal of feeding a hungry world, little attention was paid tothe sustainability of agro–ecological zones, the sustainable diets’ concept was neglected for many years.
Regardless of the many successes of agriculture during the last three decades, it is clear that food systems, and diets, are not sustainable. FAO data show that one billion people suffer from hunger,while even more people are overweight or obese. In both groups, there is a high prevalence of micronutrient malnutrition. In spite of many efforts, the nutrition problems of the world are escalating. Improving nutrition through better balanced nutritious diets can also reduce the ecological impact of dietary choices. Therefore, a shift to more sustainable diets would trigger upstream effects on the food production (e.g. diversification), processing chain and food consumption.
With growing academic recognition of environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity, as well as a dramatically increasing body of evidence of the unsustainable nature of agriculture as it is currently practiced in many parts of the world, renewed attention
has been directed to sustainability in all its forms, including diets. Therefore, the international community acknowledged that a definition, and a set of guiding principles for sustainable diets, was urgently needed to address food and nutrition security
as well as sustainability along the whole food chain A working group was convened as part of the Symposium and a definition was debated, built upon previous efforts of governments (e.g., the Sustainability Commission of the UK), UN agencies (FAO/Bioversity Technical Workshop and Biodiversity and Sustainable Diets), and others. The definition was presented in a plenary session of the
Symposium and accepted by the participants, as follows: Sustainable Diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective
and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources. The agreed definition acknowledged the interdependencies of food production and consumption with food requirements and nutrient recommendations, and at the same time, reaffirmed the notion that the health of humans cannot be isolated from the health of ecosystems.